By Natalie Berkey, Director of Communications, WGU Labs
There are seemingly endless niches in which EdTech startups can grow. Our Accelerator at WGU Labs can see firsthand the broad solution space that EdTech startups operate in, from micro-credentials and diverse education pathways, through graduation and professional networking. This experience gives us a unique perspective to understand what commonalities across EdTech solutions we’re seeing as most promising.
There are nearly unlimited ways in which EdTech can help enhance students’ educational journeys, especially in this new era of tech-driven higher education. By working with a diverse portfolio of EdTech companies in our Accelerator we see commonalities across our company partners that we believe all EdTech companies should take note of. Each of these themes highlight the importance of intentionality in product development, impact, and user-centered design.
1 – Technical Skills Aren’t Enough
The acquisition of technical skills is necessary, but not sufficient, to meet many learners’ career goals today. Motivation, mentorship, and the development of so-called “soft skills” are often just as important.
This theme often takes the form of personalized mentoring and coaching. Two of our companies are showing how this can be done. For example, GoCoach provides high-quality, personalized coaching for non-executive professionals. Another company, Lloyd, is offering a career coach referred to as a “co-pilot” to hold young professionals accountable to their career goals across their educational journey.
Mentoring and coaching can also occur with peer communities. Another Accelerator partner, Peerceptiv, helps learners build metacognitive skills through their peer assessment platform. Learning to write is one thing. Helping peers develop their own skills is quite another.
2 – The Power of Equity-First Design
Our higher education system is rife with inequities – but many startups are aiming to close gaps by designing for equity.
Three of our partners embody creative approaches to flattening imbalances in access and outcomes. Funding U, for example, is solving one piece of the college completion puzzle by providing small, “last gap” loans for low-income families who have been excluded from this market.
Once students are enrolled, our partners at eLumin are making a wide variety of education tools and software broadly accessible to everyone through the smart deployment of cloud-based learning technology. And now that the Zoom era of education is here to stay, Riff Analytics is capturing video data during meetings and classes, to hold a mirror to professionals and learners, allowing them to see the balance of engagement to ensure all voices are heard in group conversations.
3 – Hyper-Responsive Learning Content
EdTech must be more than just personalized. It must be hyper-responsive to learners’ needs. We’ve discovered that learning content can be”hyper-responsive in two ways by engaging learners in real time, and ensuring that curriculum is timely, up-to-date, and relevant to learners at any phase of their professional journey.
One of our partners, Red Flag Mania, tackles the first prong of “hyper-responsiveness” through its game-based, investigative learning adventures where each student can work their way through the learning journey in a personalized way. Students especially love this format, with 90% of students reporting it’s a worthwhile learning activity.
Other partners are addressing the second prong of hyper-responsive content by working to make curricula customized for learners. For example, GreenFig is providing detail-rich digital skills courses for “codeless” professionals in fields like marketing and business operations. Other partners, like Argos, are rethinking the entire learning content marketplace by giving power back to educators to curate customized course materials for their learners.
The EdTech marketplace continues to grow each year. These are the three top themes we’re noticing among our portfolio for 2022. But what might be next? The conversation around skills-based hiring and skills-oriented post-secondary education has continued to expand, as has WGU Labs’ support for products, services, and companies seeking to support lifelong learning.
The Accelerator at WGU Labs leverages the talent of 30-plus education and business professionals to boost your company’s impact and business scale. Interested in learning more? Let’s chat.